From Here to There

Something shifted yesterday.  It happened somewhere between putting my KitchenAid on the counter for the first time, and figuring out that the $6 painting scored from departing missionaries was going to look great in the dinette.  Maybe it was finding those two inches to scoot the sofa over, giving us a bit more space to pass behind the armchair to the hallway.  It could have been discovering that my Rubbermaid canisters and some spices will work on the shelf built for–but unable to accommodate–our microwave.  I know the cup of chai on the sofa and the strategy session with Matt helped.

Somewhere along the morning, the house we are moving into in Atenas became home.

Last Saturday, bright and early, after 9 months of language study and 2 complex final exams, our transition to Atenas began.  We followed the lion-share of our belongings down the highway, praying along the miles for dry skies.  And that the twin mattress on top wouldn’t succeed in its ambition to learn to fly.  I ran bucket brigade when the 6″ capped pipe protruding from the wall where the fridge goes (that we were told we could trim back) turned out to be a pressurized water line, rather than a drain line.  Our awesome neighbor hack-sawed a padlock to gain access to the house’s water shut off valve, and built us a wall-hugging cap with its own shut off.

2013-12-30 La Paz Arenal 043 cwebWhile incredibly grateful for the miracles–a dry transport, a re-roped mattress, a now-dry kitchen floor, a house full of things to help us do life–I was also exhausted on every level.  Our comfortable furniture (a rare find here) was uncomfortably large for the living room.  The piles of boxes and sudden appearance of appliances made the 1,050 square feet feel very small.  Every conceivable surface needed to be cleaned.  I knew that God would settle my heart over time.  I knew that we would find places for everything and joy in the house God had given our family.  But sometimes the space between the dreaming and the coming true is hard ground to travel.

Back in San Jose for the kids’ last week of school, I continued to pack, pray, and process.  Our language school house feels barren without all of our family’s comfortable things, and that has helped to point our focus toward the place the Lord is planting us.  Yesterday, under cover of the school day and a play date, Matt and I loaded up the car to critical mass and head to Atenas.  And the Lord moved.

The walls were in the same places, but the space in my heart expanded.   We still have a mountain of scrubbing and sorting to climb, but I’m starting to appreciate the view again.  Today the kids close their books on this school year.  This weekend we begin life in our new home.  And because of the Lord’s gentle, patient work within me, that feels like a great thing.




Change in the Air

We can all feel it.  A desire to put away the grammar books and draw out conversation instead.  A focus on the new home to be settled into, and release of that forever-ambition to clean the light fixture in this one.  Heartstrings tug as we do life alongside language school friends, knowing there are only a few more runs to catch together, only a few more cups of tea shared face to face.  We have four weeks left of walking the same sidewalks, shopping the same Saturday morning farmer’s market.  Being newbies together in a foreign language/culture/country has forged some beautiful connections.

And yet, this was never the end goal.  The common thread of learning Spanish has woven us together for a time, but different expressions of Christ’s love in different countries form the ultimate tapestry.  As Aragorn said to Arwen in the movie version of The Two Towers, “This is a dream.”   “Then it is a good dream,” she answered.  That is just what this time has been.

2014-04-18 Atenas House 009 colorIt’s hard to leave.  All of the questions we set aside to embrace Spanish have risen in a new tide.  Will we like our new home?  How long will it take to learn the ropes there?  Will we be good at our area of ministry?  How will our kids adjust?  All of the now-familiar paths and places will make way for another round of breaking trails—marking out the way to the grocery store, orienting to new unmarked streets, learning how to pay bills, finding the bank/doctor/dentist/hospital/pharmacy.  The structure of our days will change again.  For our family, school will move back home as most of Matt’s work transfers out of it.  This season of having my best friend by my side all day as study partner, navigator, and negotiator will come to a close.

I have felt the stress, had it nudge me out of bed to be prayed over and sorted through.  And to be honest, I have it easy.  I have a house already rented and most of its furnishings gathered.  We’re heading to a town I’m familiar with, where we already have relationships and a working knowledge of our ministry home.  My heart goes out to braver friends leaving for new countries and ministries that they’ve barely met.  If my transition is difficult, theirs is heroic.

Being a missionary doesn’t necessarily mean you are good at change, it means you keep taking steps forward until the Lord brings you out on the other side.

Breaking break for the first time in our rental house.

First lunch in our rental house.  With PB&J, who needs furniture?

Each change has a price tag, some easy, some dearly bought.  But this path of following Jesus is also blessed with celebrations along the way.  Friendships made that will last a lifetime.  Our sweet little kitchen, waiting to be filled with the smell of baking bread and meals for mission teams.  The 12 gallons of paint in our laundry room, ready to color a house into home.  Fun Spanish conversations like we had with the paint reps, explaining the English names of the colors–“What is bisque anyway?”   Little fingers and toes to hold during morning devotions.  Smiles to charm out of shy faces, laughter to share with outgoing ones.  Connecting with people from around the world with a common heart to live for the Lord.

This transition is both tender and exciting.  We are about to step into the dream that the Lord gave us at the very beginning of this journey.  Language school has been a challenging, yet beautiful time of preparation.  May the Lord bless us all as we go forward to serve, wherever He may lead us.


Best of Times, Worst of Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  I haven’t read Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities since I cast away the polyester uniform skirt of high school, but I woke up this morning thinking about its famous opening line.  Because, my dear friends, this season of language school qualifies for both monikers.

Zarcero Town Square GardensIt’s the best of times.  We are making lifelong friendships with incredible people who are following Jesus’ call to the nations.  There’s an adventure waiting every time we step outside of our gate.  What new expression will we learn?  What breakthrough are we going to have in our ability to communicate?  What is the Lord going to do today with the offering we are lifting up?  The language and culture are opening up before us.  Day by day, we grow and learn to love it more.  There are small victories, like hanging a picture up on the wall to add warmth to your living space, finding great recipes for the unusual fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market, or having an intelligible chat with a Tico neighbor.  Then there’s the incredible love and support from people back in the states.  Phone calls and letters that are like physical embraces.  A monthly contribution statement testifying the sacrificial giving to this work that the Lord is doing through our family, like shouts of encouragement and blessing from across the miles.  This experience is humbling and amazing.

Step with CareIt’s the worst of times.  Language learning reduces doctors, teachers, and pastors alike into stuttering toddlers.  All those cute mistakes our kids made in English don’t feel as amusing when we utter them in Spanish for the 40th time as well-educated grown ups.  Tears spring up unlooked-for in classes from time to time.  And the term “culture shock” isn’t an exaggeration.  In their first week here, one family lost all their shoes set out 10 feet behind their wrought iron gate to someone’s ingenuity with a fish-hook and line.  One sweetheart in the preschool is still trying to hold back the tears each morning as she lets go of her parent’s hand.  We were regularly shorted change by taxi drivers until we thought to ask our teacher about the way things should work.  While we are making this our home, at times everything here can feel very foreign.  There are potholes to be avoided in our emotional adjustment that are just as real as those we step around on the sidewalk.  And sometimes, as hard as you try to walk carefully, you twist an ankle anyway and find yourself hobbling through the week.

Heliconia--Lobster Claw Flowers

As the hands and feet of a community of people investing into God’s heart for the nations, we need your prayers.  The increase of work involved with our 2nd trimester feels somewhat like a pressure cooker.  The opportunity to expand our fluency is exciting, but the hours of effort involved in pressing through the learning process can be heavy.   Several of us, our family included, are also still raising monthly support for this ministry that the Lord has called us to.  We would be honored if you would consider yourself invited to join with us in a financial way.  You can find our family’s giving information <here>.

It grieved my heart when our neighbors hacked their flowering bushes to the ground mid-bloom back in October.  But this girl from the prairie didn’t know then, that in a month, the plants would spring back up in better shape and bloom more abundantly.  As missionaries in language school, we are in a season of pruning.  We press on, looking forward to the flowers and fruit that The Vine has planned for our branches.

Where Feet May Fail

Spirit lead me
    where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters,
    wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper
    than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger
    in the presence of my savior.  Hillsong United: Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Photo Ops and Daily Living

This last week was tough for me.  Matt and I stepped up to a different class for Language and Phonetics.  He’s ready to be a rock star with the others, I’m trying to earn my keep on the sound crew.  Everyone is super encouraging and helpful.  But on Thursday, after a compassionate look from a classmate, the tide came in.  I spent twenty minutes of the class with tears flowing that I couldn’t check.  I don’t think it’s just the Spanish.  I really enjoy learning and this season of being on the other side of the teacher’s manual.  I like the verbal drills and handing in a test that I worked hard on.  It’s fun to load up our backpacks and walk to school together.  One of my favorite parts of the day is hugging each of our E’s before we deliver them to their classrooms.  (Eliana has been asking for her snuggle by the front gate.  Sixth graders have appearances to keep up.)  I even get to have snack time with Matt in the break between classes.

Make a WishI think that in the midst of my persistent “I Can Do This” pace, I haven’t taken enough of a breather to process the myriad of changes in our life.  Dear friends are clearing the last of our belongings from our house in the prairie this weekend.  Eleven days from now it will open its doors to a new family.  No more of our game nights or birthday candles blown out in that kitchen.  No more Sunday naps in that bedroom after anointed worship and teaching at our home church in our mother tongue.  No more morning devotions curled up on that furniture.  No more watching the birds splash or the pines dance in the wind through those windows.  And in spite of the glories of technology, we are a great physical distance from many hearts that mean so much to us.

Laundry Lines

can do this.  I can make our bread, cook meals from scratch, and time our laundry by the look of the skies.  I can walk everywhere we need to go, and get back before dusk falls around 5:30 p.m.  I can rally the kids for the evening dish washing & floor sweeping, help with their homework, and tackle my own.  I can learn new words for everything and the new relationships for how to put them together.  I can learn how to be a parent of school-going children, how to advocate for them with teachers and other students, how to help their understanding as a mom instead of as a teacher.  It sounds hilarious from this vantage point, but Matt and I actually expected this season of language school to be less busy than our lives in Nebraska.  Without homeschooling , a PT career, and ministry commitments, with no yard work, and a third of the house-space to keep clean, we thought life would be more restful in this season.  In reality, we are doing less, but it takes a great deal more of our time to do it.

Street View

want to do this.  I want to learn to love the jumble of houses piled together and broken pavement interspersed with tropical beauty.  I want to bring an open heart to this new culture and soak in a new way of doing life.  I want to make friends and do life in Spanish without English subtitles.  I want to walk in the presence of our Great God as He works in me and through me here in Costa Rica.  I want to delight not only in the photo opportunities at places of natural splendor, but also in the miles of daily living in between.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.  Galatians 6:9

Speaking of natural splendor, a few weeks ago we were able to spend a day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.  We’ve updated the slide show on our Home page to give you a taste of that incredible time.  Click <here> to check it out.